Nintendo’s third home console has finally hit the age of 20. To some of us it feels like no time has passed, as if it were only yesterday that we were crammed into a dorm room playing WWF Attitude as polygons of ourselves put into the game. Flash forward and I can barely hold that monstrosity of a controller in my hands while I play some of my favorites. Because there are so many greats, I have most assuredly missed a title or two in the listicle that follows, but here are my absolute favorite Nintendo 64 titles.
5) Banjo Kazooie
I have always had a tough time with 3D platformers, I would get lost or just flat out not know where to go or what to do. Banjo was one of those games that showed me just how bad my transition to 3D gaming was. I still did have a fun time trying to play this game—the music and the Rare-speak bring me nostalgia and goosebumps to this day. I remember trying to find the jiggies and the music notes, but I never could. Without the internet gaming was much more difficult in the ’90s. What I liked the most about the game was the fact that it was so unique at that time: I had to play it, even though I was unsuccessful at completing all of its challenges. Luckily I was able to watch my buddies conquer Banjo-Kazooie, nonetheless. I truly miss the Rare of the late ’90s.
4) GoldenEye 007
GoldenEye was the first FPS I ever laid my eyes on, which is why it’s one of my favorite FPSs. To be honest, I didn’t beat the campaign until very recently, but when I did, I was impressed at how well Rare turned the movie into a campaign that actually made sense. I did get lost a few times, seeing that I’ve been turned into a tutorial gamer with all these new titles, but other than that, it was amazing to see what they could do on older hardware. My time was mostly spent in the multiplayer maps with three of my college buddies. We spent hours killing each other on the different maps, and after coming out on top, we’d yell “For England!”. It makes me a little sad to think that I have no one to compete with as often, but when I get the chance, I can’t wait to take down my friends with a Golden Gun as Oddjob.
3) Conker’s Bad Fur Day
When I was first introduced to it, I couldn’t believe that this game was on a Nintendo console. My first encounter with Conker’s Bad Fur Day was when my buddy, who had already beaten the title, showed me the Mighty Poo for the first time. I couldn’t stop laughing at his design, just the fact alone that he had corn as teeth almost made me wet myself. Then he began to sing, which was a big deal for a cartridge game back then, and I lost it. I knew that I had to have this game, and that I must beat it and get to this point just to watch the Mighty Poo sing over and over. In my opinion, the Mighty Poo is one of the funniest parts of the game, but there are so many other funny parts, too: the king bee who wants to pollinate the extremely sexy flower, the Terminator moment, the brass balls boss, and the overall drunkenness of Conker who appears as an innocent Disney-type character. All of these made me fall in love with the game. Conker’s Bad Fur Day was the exact opposite of what Nintendo published at the time, and I tip my hat to them for having the guts to put it out on a console that was marketed to youngsters.
2) Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
I remember that I was worried that a 2D Zelda would not translate well to 3D; I’m very glad that I was wrong and that Nintendo made me eat crow. Nearly 80% of my college buddies bought the Nintendo 64 for this title alone. Unlike them, I went the Dreamcast route to play some Resident Evil instead, but I don’t regret it. I watched my friends tinker around in Hyrule with young Link and old Link and thought to myself that I needed to play the 3D Zelda game in full before I die. Flash forward 20-some-odd years and I’ve still not knocked this game off my bucket list, even though I own every version published. I have gotten a few dungeons in and that alone made me fall in love with Link’s first 3-D adventure—my full heart still belongs to Wind Waker—but Ocarina can be my side Zelda. The music is what really drew me in. Hearing all the songs for the first time really made me realize that video games were more than just a child’s hobby; it made me realize that they can and will be so much more. Koji Kondo’s amazing composition aided in my immersion of Link’s tale. To this day I still hum the Windmill theme as I putz around at work or while I’m doing some reading. I do plan on beating Ocarina of Time to completion one day, but I often wonder if my reason for not beating it is the fact that I will never be able to play it for the first time again.
1) Super Mario 64
This was the first Nintendo 64 game that I got to play; it was at a kiosk at the Blockbuster that I was employed at. After growing up with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, the thought of a 3D Mario blew my mind. I couldn’t believe that I could rotate around the Mushroom Kingdom and explore Princess Peach’s castle. It was hard for me to adjust to the new type of controls and the need to align Mario’s field of vision properly with the blocks and the enemies. It’s hard to believe that if Miyamoto hadn’t gotten this game to the console, none of us would have been able to enjoy Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Sunshine. The game also looked pretty darn good for a generation that punched out ugly games with great gameplay. Surprisingly, I don’t shudder when I replay it. If only more titles worried about amazing controls and gameplay instead of trying their hardest to be the prettiest around.
Well there you have it—those are my top 5 Nintendo 64 titles. There are plenty of honorable mentions for this system, like the Star Wars games and Super Smash Bros., but I wouldn’t put any of them in my top 5 list. To celebrate, what N64 game do you plan on playing today?